|“||Fully grown Vessel, carrying the plague's heart within its body. The Old King of Hallownest... he must have been desperate to save his crumbling little world. The sacrifices he imposed on others... all for nothing.||„|
|~ The Hollow Knight's Hunter Journal entry.|
The Hollow Knight is the titular central antagonist and final boss of the 2017 indie game of the same name. They are the Vessel that sealed away the Infection, but at the cost of eventually becoming infected themself.
The Hollow Knight was one of the many mysterious life-forms called Vessels, created using Void at the bottom of the Abyss below Hallownest. When a higher being known as the Radiance plagued the dreams of the inhabitants of Hallownest, the Pale King, the ruler of the kingdom, came up with a plan to seal her away using the Void. He and his queen, the White Lady, created these vessels- their children- with the intention of sealing the essence of the Radiance inside them. These Vessels were required to have no mind or will of their own, as the Radiance had the ability to break minds and enslave wills. This meant that she could eventually escape from an impure Vessel. Only one vessel was shown to escape from the Abyss- the Pure Vessel. It was taken to the palace and was raised by its parents, the king and queen. However, this vessel was discovered to be impure, implied to be because of their parental bond with their father, the Pale King.
After sealing the Radiance within itself, the Hollow Knight was chained up inside the Temple of the Black Egg. The King asked three prominent bugs, the Dreamers, to form a seal on the outside of the Temple. This prevented anyone from entering the Temple, and it prevented the Hollow Knight from escaping its confinement. The Dreamers went into a permanent rest, and after some time, the King and the White Palace mysteriously vanished, leaving Hallownest struggling to survive on its own.
However, as time went on, the Hollow Knight's impurity became its demise, as the Radiance managed to break out of the Hollow Knight and the Black Egg, causing the Infection to return. The Knight, another Vessel, was compelled to return to Hallownest after a call from either the Hollow Knight or the Radiance. It began a quest to either defeat the Hollow Knight and replace them as the Vessel of the Radiance, or to enter the dream of the Hollow Knight and defeat the Radiance once and for all.
After the Knight absorbs all three of the Dreamers, the Temple of the Black Egg will be opened for the player to fight the Hollow Knight. If it has collected enough Essence, the player can use the Awoken Dream Nail to gain access to the White Palace. This will start the player on a quest to obtain the Void Heart, which will unlock two additional endings.
The Hollow Knight
The regular ending, if the Knight has not collected the Void Heart. The Knight engages the Hollow Knight in combat and ultimately succeeds, absorbing the Infection leaking from the Hollow Knight and becomes the new Vessel to seal the Infection.
If the Knight has obtained the Void Heart, Hornet will aid the player by immobilizing the Hollow Knight long enough for the Knight to be able to Dream Nail the Hollow Knight and enter their mind. However, should the Knight not use the Nail in time or attack the Hollow Knight with any other attack, the Hollow Knight will break out of their stun and knock Hornet aside, continuing the battle until their death. Much like the regular ending, the Knight becomes the new Vessel, while Hornet becomes a Dreamer, forming a seal on the entrance to the Temple of the Black Egg. With Hornet trapped inside her own seal, there is no longer a way to stop the Infection if it ever comes back.
Dream No More
Should the Knight use the Dream Nail on the Hollow Knight while Hornet restrains them, the Knight will be transported to the Hollow Knight's dream, where the player can encounter and challenge the Radiance. As the fight progresses, the Shades of the Knight's siblings enter the Dream Realm and aid the Knight in taking down the Radiance, including the Shade of the Hollow Knight themself. The Hollow Knight opens the weak spot in the Radiance's head, causing the Knight to break away from its physical form to deal the finishing blows to the Radiance. This allows it and the rest of the Shades to pull her into the Void and end the Infection for good.
The Hollow Knight appears in the Godmaster content pack as the Pure Vessel, the final opponent in the Pantheon of the Knight and the penultimate enemy in the Pantheon of Hallownest. The Pure Vessel is the Hollow Knight at their prime, fully raised and trained in combating against the Infection, before they contained the source of the Infection and was sealed away within the Black Egg. In the Pantheon of the Knight and rematches in the Hall of Gods, the Pure Vessel collapses into a puddle of Void when defeated, but in the Pantheon of Hallownest, the Knight is instead warped away by the Radiance herself to engage the Knight with her true form, Absolute Radiance.
After defeating the Pure Vessel in the Pantheon of the Knight, a cutscene plays featuring the Knight, the Hollow Knight back in its original Vessel form, and several other Vessels in the background. The two Vessels stare at each other while the others silently watch before a light shines down from above, along with the Radiance's roar. The Vessels watch the light until a wave of Void emerges from the ground and engulfs the room and the Vessels.
In the new ending after defeating Absolute Radiance, the Void corrupts Godhome, and leaks out of the Godseeker to further corrupt Hallownest, unless the Delicate Flower has been given, which neutralizes the Void into one of its petals. Meanwhile, the Hollow Knight is now free from its duty of sealing away the Radiance, as she no longer exists. Still restrained by chains, it breaks free from the Black Egg and crawls towards Hornet, who readies her guard. It is left ambiguous whether or not it is now friend or foe.
The Hollow Knight is a tall figure with a black body and a white horned insectoid head with a dark green cloak. Like the rest of the Infected, their eyes shine a bright orange, and they have a crack in the center of their head where the Infection escaped from their body. As the Pure Vessel, the only significant difference is that their cloak is now colored gray, and their eyes no longer have the orange look of infection.
Not much is known about the Hollow Knight's personality, as the Vessels were made to carry no will of their own. It is said by the Hunter that the Pale King imposed sacrifices upon others, including the Hollow Knight. Whether or not they willingly sealed the Radiance within themself is unclear. After the Hollow Knight became controlled by the Radiance, they took a more feral and aggressive state. Unlike most under her control, they also show enough self-awareness to fight back, repeatedly attacking themself in their boss fight and refusing to fight at their full strength. However, it's possible that in their dilapidated state, they had no full strength left.
- During the final battle, the Hollow Knight stabs themself with their nail halfway through the fight. Why they do so is never given, although there might be a possibility that the Hollow Knight regains a little control of their body, so they might be trying to rid the Infection by killing themself.
- In the White Palace during the Path of Pain section and in the Birthplace of the Abyss, the Knight spots the Pale King with a Vessel that looks similar to the Hollow Knight, except it is much younger. These scenes suggest that the Hollow Knight was already an impure Vessel from a young age, perhaps even from the moment they were born.
- Neither the Hollow Knight nor the Pure Vessel can be Dream Nailed; only by Hornet opening the crack in the Hollow Knight's head can they be Dream Nailed.
- The Hollow Knight has several cut Dream Nail dialogue, one of which is where they call for their father, the Pale King.
Hollow Knight: Silksong